An Open Message to Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe

The election is over and you can now free yourself from your election handlers. It is time to move your focus from getting elected to making Ottawa a better place to live.

So what should your first priority be. During an election campaign it is obviously whatever the largest group of voters will vote for, and you seemed to think that was NOT spending money on cycling infrastructure. But more on that later. The campaign is over.

You now need to think about what is most important to all Ottawans, and in particular vulnerable and disadvantaged ones. I put it to you that the most important thing to most of us, after our families, is our home. So try to imagine not having one. So, even if the homeless tend to not vote, as mayor they should be your most important concern.

Most municipal candidates seem to fear this issue mistakenly thinking it is too big a challenge and too costly an expenditure and they try to pass it on to other jurisdictions where it gets lost in a lack of political will. But Finland has shown that not only can providing homes for everyone be done, it saves money because it costs less than all the measures needed to deal with homelessness. It may take some imagination and dedication and work with other jurisdictions to get this done, but it can be done. There are people in Ottawa with the ability and dedication to make it happen. Work with them.

As to the apparent misplaced obsession of your election campaign, your opponent’s brilliant plan to finish Ottawa’s cycling network in 5 years instead of 25 while spending the same amount of money annually over 25 years, it is time to look at it on it’s merits and not how it can be twisted to your electoral campaign advantage.

How can one argue against a proposal that increases the cost effectiveness of city expenditures many times. You only get the benefits of any type of network when it is fully completed and interconnected. This plan expedites that so the construction costs are incurred when they are lower and the full benefits of taxpayers money is achieved in 5 years, 20 years before all the money is paid out by taxpayers. As well, networks are most effectively built from the inside out so that as much as possible of the network is interconnected. This means that it is the suburbs that benefit most from the expedited construction.

This plan, of course, does not only benefit cyclists. If you want to reduce automobile traffic congestion building more automobile infrastructure will not work because of a pesky thing called induced demand. The only way to reduce traffic congestion to reduce the number of cars on the road and that means improving public transit and cycling infrastructure. Since over 50% of car trips are short enough to be replaced by cycling, building an effective cycling network can be an important part of reducing automobile traffic congestion.

There is no reason to oppose this plan, which better spends taxpayers money, unless you simply do not want to spend any money at all on cycling infrastructure.

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